Brig. Vijai K Nair (Retd). Dr. Nair an M Sc. in Defence Studies and a Ph. D. in Political Science. He specializes in Nuclear Strategy formulation and nuclear arms control negotiations. He has considerable experience on issues related to NPT, CTBT and FMCT. Dr. Nair is currently revising the nuclear strategy for India [in keeping with nuclear transience] suggested in his book “Nuclear India.” Besides two tenures of combat duty, in service experience includes being a Member Army Experts Committee - 1989-90; Core staff officer to the Committee on Defence Expenditure 1990.
He is the Life Trustee of the Forum for Strategic & Security Studies; and, Managing Director, Magoo Strategic Infotech Pvt Ltd. An information service providing daily news updates and analyses on “Nuclear Agenda’s”.
A Development of Surface Communications in Tibet
B Chinese Nuclear Capabilities Deployed In Central China
C Chinese Nuclear Weapons By Type & Location.
D Chinese Assistance To Pakistan: Nuclear Field
E Map of Area for Diverting Water from Tsangpo
China is in forceful occupation of approximately 38,000 square Kms of Indian territory in Akshai Chin in the West and claims a further 90,000 square Kms of Indian territories in the East, a claim that was reiterated with vehemence by Beijing as recently as June 1998. This territorial dispute resulted in the deployment of military forces, by both India and China, in direct confrontation along 3488 km of what is called the Line of Actual Control [LAC][i] in place of a mutually recognised international border between them. To add fuel to fire the alignment of the LAC is also disputed thereby causing considerable tensions between the two countries.
Despite having signed an Agreement on Maintenance of Peace and Tranquility along the Line of Actual Control [LAC] in 1993 Chinese incursions across the LAC continue to be a regular feature and have continued to date.[ii] If anything the frequency of these intrusions registered an upswing after the demise of Deng Xiaoping in February 1997 with exponential increments thereafter when India conducted nuclear tests in May 1998. “Chinese troops have crossed over into Indian territory over 500 times since January, 2010. But much more than the sheer number of these "transgressions" - the government refuses to call them "intrusions" - it's the increasingly aggressive behaviour of the 2.5-million-strong People's Liberation Army [PLA] along the LAC that remains a major worry.”[iii] The propensity of the Indian Government to sweep this aberration under the carpet cannot reduce the threat manifest in the fact that the PLA has:
Of its seven Military Regions the Lanzhou and Chengdu Military Regions are responsible for the security of Western China. Lanzhou and Chengdu Military Regions account for the deployment of two Army Groups and the Xinjiang Military Districts in the former, and two Army Groups and the Tibet Military District in the latter[ii]. Western Tibet that covers Akshai Chin falls under the Lanzhou military command. The Tibet Military District covers Central, Northern and Eastern Tibet with two Infantry Brigades and an Infantry Regiment. These military resources account for 30 percent of the forces in the Lanzhou and Chengdu Military Regions based on the border between India and Tibet, and the remainder in central Tibet and the North-West[iii]. The four Armies based in Western China could be employed to support operations from Tibet against India through flanking attacks through Myanamar or reinforce an offensive from the North. In Addition there are 17 secret radar stations and 14 military airfields, eight missile bases, at least eight ICBMs and 20 intermediate range missiles.
The nature of these military assets is undergoing fundamental changes as a consequence of the ongoing military modernisation programme. They are improving their firepower, communications and mobility. Reports from Western sources suggest that “In addition, China's western armies received … the newest and most advanced arms and equipment.”[iv]
To support its military strategy China has built a network of intelligence-gathering stations along the southern edge of the Tibetan plateau to effectively monitor Indian air space, electronic communications and troop movements.[v]
The 14 major air bases it has constructed on the Tibetan Plateau along with innumerable satellite airstrips provides the PLA Air Force the potential to dominate the air space over Tibet and gives it a capability, for the first time, to execute combat operations over Indian Himalayas. ‘Raksha Mantri stated in Parliament on 06 March 2011, “ PLA is also rapidly upgrading several other airstrips in TAR as well as south China to add to five air bases from where Chinese Sukhoi -27UBK and Sukhoi-30 MKK fighters have practiced operations in recent times.”’[vi]
Given its acquisition of mid-air refueling capabilities and the increased runway lengths of upgraded air bases, China is fast increasing its prospects to prosecute deep penetration air attacks against major Indian cities in the hinterland.[vii]
The second leg of the Chinese strategy to prevail against India is directed to gaining military linkages and economic influence amongst India’s South Asian neighbours.[viii]
Myanamar, which was recognised by both the British and the Japanese as "the back door to India," has in the past three decades been targeted by China to steadily increase its political, military and economic influence. It bought its way into favour with the Myanamarese military government by facilitating a peace agreement with the Communist Party of Burma a particularly difficult secessionist group, selling them nearly $2 billion of arms, providing cheap consumer goods, re-building strategic surface communications and upgrading port facilities to enhance maritime activities. A strategy, that has given it considerable strategic leverage including a hinterland to the Indian Ocean from where it can prosecute its seaward strategy. This strategy encountered some hic-cups in the ‘Golden Triangle’ astride the border with Yunan Province in 2009 when the Junta Government perceived that the Chinese were using ethnic armies as pawns to hedge their bets.[ix]
On the southern tip of India, China overwhelmingly remains Sri Lanka's main supplier of arms. It also provides military equipment and materials to Bangla Desh.[x]
The pincer movement to isolate India from South Asian militaries is completed by the massive arms supplies to Pakistan and assistance of technological, material and human resources to enhance its fledgling defence industrial establishment.
The PLA Navy is directly responsible for: the strategy for creating naval bases at Munaung, Hainggyi, Katan Islands, Coco Islands, Mergui and Zadaikey Islands - along Myanmar’s coastline;[xi] provisioning Pakistan’s Navy with ship borne cruise missiles [type 802] and LY60N surface to surface missiles[xii]; the creation and management of China’s sub-surface strategic nuclear forces which Admiral Zhang Liaozhong defined, “… is the chief objective of this century;” and, finally preparing the PLAN to emerge into the Indian Ocean armed with aircraft carriers and new generation of nuclear powered submarines by 2000.[xiii] China has already developed and launched both these platforms in keeping with General Xu Guangyu’s conception. The first aircraft carrier, Liaoning ‘Varyag’, was commissioned into the PLAN on September 25, 2012[xiv] having a capacity for 30 J-15 fighter planes.[xv] “But Beijing will need at least three to six more "proper" aircraft carriers, while the navy's importance within China's forces as a whole needs to be considerably enhanced”[xvi]. “The Pentagon report said another carrier, one made from components made in China, may already be under construction and ready to sail in 2015.[xvii] The congressional study goes on to state that China has also launched three nuclear submarines of its own design that are capable of firing nuclear-armed intercontinental missiles.[xviii]
Yet another area that needs the careful attention of the Indian Government is that of China’s extant and emerging nuclear strategic and tactical capabilities that has major implications for the Sino-Indian equation and the latter’s long-term security interests. [See Appendix B]
Not only is China a long established NWS with a carefully thought out nuclear strategy, but: it continues to make significant increments in its nuclear weapons arsenal; is creating a sub-surface nuclear [SSBN] capability that gives it the potential to deploy nuclear weapons in the Indian Ocean; has tested and produced tactical nuclear weapons; introduced nuclear war fighting doctrine in the PLA for use against qualitatively superior conventional forces; has demonstrated ominous trends by integrating missile warfare with nuclear and conventional capabilities into its concept of war[xix]; and, its ‘no first use’ strategy is directed towards non-nuclear weapon states [NNWS] Party to the NPT, thus excluding India from this dubious assurance[xx].
There is sufficient evidence to indicate that China has at least 25 nuclear tipped medium range ballistic missiles based in Tibet along with an undisclosed number of nuclear configured short-range tactical missiles. These deployments are singularly India specific as they have the range to strike major Indian cities or engage military formations in the Himalayas. [See Appendix C]
According to a declassified report by the US Air Force’s National Intelligence Center on China’s medium rang missile deployments – “… in areas where the CSS-2’s 3,100 Km range capability is required, crew training activities remain robust and the number of deployed launchers likely remains unchanged.” In missile bases in western and southern China [51st and 52nd Armies] the deployment and crew training of CSS-2 missiles is being significantly reduced and substituted by the mobile CSS-5 [Mod-1]. In contrast the CSS-2 activity in the 53rd Army at Jianshui launch complex and Kunming training area continues on a large scale. The USAF report concludes: “The reason for this activity is probably related to the CSS-2’s maximum range capability. … 3,100 km, versus 2100 km for the CSS-5 [Mod-1], allows the CSS-2 missiles at Jianshui to target most of India, while the CSS-5 Mod 1 can cover South East Asia from the same launch facilities.[xxi]
What is even more worrisome is “the large scale CSS-2 training activity involving at least two launch units from Datong field garrison has also recently been noted at Haiyan training facility in the 56th Army, located in Central China [Tibetan Plateau - assets located at Da Qaidam, Delingha and Xiao Qaidam].” The report goes on to explain that “From Datong the CSS-2 can strike targets in India and Russia … there is evidence of replacement of some CSS-2 assets in Datong with the CSS-5 Mod 1.” [xxii]
Which means that the potential to strike Indian targets is being changed to mobile launchers from silo based launch facilities.
Another source from the Russian Federation reports that the upgradation of network of highways stretching from Jianshui-Kunming-Yunan-Chengdu-Lhasa-Haiyan-Datong is specifically designed to take heavy mobile missiles with suitably surveyed and recorded launch sites along the route.
As the strategic assets created in this region by the PLA only have relevance to the Indian subcontinent it would be foolhardy to underplay Chinese strategic designs vis-à-vis India and ignore the special issues that need to be thrashed out between two nuclear weapon states.
The projection of the Chinese nuclear strategy to the Sub-continent gains further credence with its blatant assistance to Pakistan in developing its nuclear weapons arsenal through its transfer of nuclear weapons systems, warhead designs related materials, technology, training nuclear scientists[xxiii] and their exposure to the series of China’s nuclear tests[xxiv] [See Appendix D]. The deep strategic linkages between these two countries have provided the basis for strategic collusion to be extended in the time of conflict thereby increasing the threat to India manifold and the complexities of formulating and implementing an appropriate nuclear strategy.
A Fourth and equally ominous leg of China’s strategy to gain leverage over India lies in its national water resource strategy. One of the objects of which is to manipulate the Asian sources of water to establish a “hands off’ control over the river basins flowing through other regional powers that China considers a threat to its long term national interests.
This scheme will have a direct bearing on millions of Indians living down stream. They would be at the mercy of Chinese manipulations with the potential to flood them or withold their water supply. As was manifest this year by the havoc created in Arunachal Pradesh and Assam by Beijing’s manipulation of dams on the Tsangpo[ii]. A corollary would be a similar employment to weaken the coherence and isolate military defences designed against a major offensive from the North.
What should be of equal concern is that China’s alleged intention to use a 10 Megatonne PNE to excavate the tunnel in close proximity to the Watershed that divides Tibet from India would have a disastrous effects on India. Firstly, the ability to contain such a massive explosion is questionable and release of radioactivity into the atmosphere in close proximity to India cannot be ruled out. Secondly the radiological contamination of subsurface soil would be carried by the river waters into India and Assam, endangering millions of people. [See Map at Appendix D]
In his book, “War at the Top of the World,” Eric Margolis aptly sums it up - "Most worrisome to India … is the steady increase of Chinese military power on the Tibetan Plateau, which confronts India with the specter of simultaneously facing serious strategic threats on its western, northern and eastern borders.”
The danger to India lies in that the combined effect of a misplaced sense of euphoria on perceived diplomatic successes in Sino-Indian relations combined with the unholy focus of the national attention on Kashmir could result in a failure to understand the dynamics of the emerging Chinese threat. A false sense of complacency appears to blanket Chinese capabilities and tell tale actions that forebode an ominous long term strategy which could jeopardise India’s long-term national security interests and sovereignty.
As a consequence of the diplomatic initiatives India has instituted, peppered with high level visits between luminaries of the two countries, the Ministry of External Affairs [MEA] has succeeded in creating an illusion of an increasing draw down of the friction in Sino-Indian relations. The track record of the substance of these high level diplomatic exchanges is, however questionable. The issues on which the MEA needs to enlighten both the public and parliament are:
These fissures can be dangerous as they allow the adversary points of ingress that keeps the can of worms alive. The sense of urgency required to create structures and means to offset Beijing’s machinations can result in a very unprepared India when its hand is called.
India needs to be seen for what it is - a nuclear weapon state - that has no reservations to discuss the concerns it has that are an obstacle to a benign relationship with its Asian neighbour. In particular:
In October 2000, Sun Yongfu, Vice Minister of Railways confirmed that in the period 2001-05, China aims to complete a 1,000km railway line to link Lhasa to the Chinese mainland.
Some analysts have concluded that this rail project is a part of Beijing’s arm twisting tactics to forcefully change the demographic character of Tibet to a predominantly Hans Chinese one through improving access. This project is perceived more as a politically driven policy than the result of well-reasoned economic or social necessity.
Besides the Tibetan project, another proposal includes laying tracks along the ancient Silk Road from the Southern Xinjiang Railway, across difficult desert and mountainous terrain, to former Soviet Central Asia with yet another line to run parallel to the Mekong River, from Kunming through southern Yunnan, and into Indochina, linking with existing networks to create a pan-Asian railway right down to Singapore.
The link to Lhasa with the closest railhead, Golmud in Qinghai province, has been completed and the Lhasa-Shigatse Rail link covering 253 km is under construction and expected to be operational by 2014. PLA Air Force recently this rail link to transport combat material including ballistic missiles to Tibet to test if they can withstand change of pressure. Since 2010 Tibet Military Region is very active using Lhasa rail for military exercises.[i]
Golmud is the current terminus of the Qinghai-Tibet railway from Xining, capital of Qinghai and the start point for the rail link to Tibet. Earlier efforts to build a rail link were abandoned in 1984 due to impossible climatic and topographical conditions that often destroy sections of the existing assets.
The existing 816km route is the highest in the world, averaging over 3,000m above sea level, but the next 1,000km to Lhasa will be closer to 4,000m. As a first step, the Railways Ministry will allocate Yn740m ($89.5m) to renovate the Xining-Golmud line by next October. Inner Tibet is now the only Chinese region without a railway.
Defence Minister, A K Antony, informed the Parliament “of the rapid development of rail, road, airfield and telecom infrastructure and military camps being undertaken by the Chinese authorities in Tibet.” He “acknowledged that a road network stretching across 58,000 km coupled with five operational airfields at Gongar, Pangta, Linchi, Hoping and Gar Gunsa have come up in Tibet. Besides, extension of the Qinghai Tibet Railway (QTR) line to Xigaze and another line from Kashgar to Hotan in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region is also in progress.[ii]
“The existing infrastructure makes rapid deployment of full potential of thirty-thirty-five division possible in about 50/60 days. PLA is capable to launch operations in the same season. After ongoing and new projects are completed by the end of 12th five year plan, PLA capability will further enhance.”[i] However, the rapid development of communication infrastructure demands continuous review.
China's own nuclear programme was partially pioneered on the Tibetan Plateau at the Northwest Nuclear Weapons Research and Design Academy (the "Ninth Academy") 100 kms west of Amdo's capital, Siling (Ch:Xining). The Academy worked on nuclear bomb prototypes from the early 1960s, and the first batch of nuclear weapons produced there were stationed at two nuclear missile deployment and launch sites at Tsaidam Basin by the early 1970s.
Today China's DF-4 intercontinental ballistic missiles with ranges of 4,000 7,000 kms are stored at the Tsaidam sites. Further DF-4 missiles are deployed 217 kms southeast of Tsaidam at Terlingkha (Ch:Delingha) headquarters of a missile regiment with four launch sites. A fourth new nuclear missile station, located in southern Amdo bordering Sichuan, houses four CSS-4 missiles with ranges of 12,874 kms.
The 1970s also saw work on a missile base near Nagchuka in the 'TAR' ('Tibet Autonomous Region') where underground complexes now house intermediate and medium-range ballistic missiles at a site which was selected as an alternative to Xinjiang's Lop Nor for possible nuclear testing. Another underground complex close to Lhasa stores ground-to-air and surface-to-surface missiles which are paraded through the capital annually on Chinese Army Day. Further stockpiles of these missiles are kept at Kongpo in southeast 'TAR'. With China rapidly expanding and modernising its defence arsenal, and continuing its programme of nuclear stockpiling, Tibet's strategic value for military deployment and proliferation can only escalate this century.
A news analysis in 2008 revealed: “More than 50 launch pads for nuclear ballistic missiles have been identified scattered across a 2,000 square kilometer (772 square miles) area of central China, according to analysis of satellite images.” It showed a much larger deployment area than previously known, covering the northern parts of Qinghai province around Delingha and Da Qaidam where 58 launch pads have been identified.[ii]
For the past decade the missile configuration has been changing from liquid fueled to solid fueled missiles and an increased deployment of mobile launchers to reduce time ‘into action’. Reports indicate deployment of DF-21 missiles at Delingha and Da Qaidam as early as 2006. These launch pad
China has constructed 14 major air bases on the Tibetan Plateau, and a score of tactical airstrips. These bases give the Chinese air force control of Tibet's air space, the forward edge of battle in the event of war with India, and the capability to fly sustained combat operations over India's north and strike all India's northern cities, including Delhi, Bombay and Calcutta. Chinese electronic intelligence atop the plateau also confers an important advantage of combat information and battle management in any, air war. The high altitude of the airfields in Tibet is frequently suggested as precluding effective PLAAF air operations against India. But now with extended runways (10,000 feet to 14,000 feet) the PLAAF has been able to overcome this problem and through aerial refueling, with strike aircraft taking off from lower-altitude airfields farther away, and refueling over Tibet for strikes at airfields or other targets in northern India.[iii]
Infrastructure capabilities and limitations can significantly affect air combat operations. A detailed analysis of airfield suitability would require more current and detailed data than can be obtained on an unclassified basis.
In addition to the massive Chinese military presence in there are 5 known missile bases, at least 8 ICBMs (Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles), 70 medium range missiles and 20 intermediate range missiles.
Missiles and Nuclear Tests in Tibet All of China's openly-documented nuclear tests have been carried out at to the north west of Tibet at Lop Nor in Xinjiang Province. There are large prison labour camps adjacent to these three sites. The report also says that Golmud, in the north of the TAR, is possibly a bomber dispersal base.
DF-3A (CSS-2) 40-50 launchers 50
8 Jianshui 23.37N/102.49E India specific
8 Kunming 25.03N/102.43E India specific
8 Yidu 36.41N/118.28E
8 Tonghua 41.43N/125.56E
4 Dengshahe 39.13N/122.04E
10 Lianxiwang 30.09N/117.38E
DF-4 (CSS-3) 10-20 launchers 20
Da Qaidam 37.50N/95.18E India specific
Delingha 37.23N/97.23E India specific
Xiao Qaidam 37.31N/95.25E India specific
DF-5A (CSS-4 ICBM) 7
DF-21A (CSS-5 Mobile MRBM) 40 launchers 36
16 Tonghua 41.43N/125.56E
8 Jianshui 23.37N/102.49E India specific
6 Lianxiwang 30.09N/117.38E
Julang-1/CSS-N-3/Xia SSBN 12
Submarine Base 39.27N/119.09E or 37.25N/121.49E
Tu-16 Badger (B-6) 120
120 aircraft, three regiments
Datong 36.37N/103.21E India specific
Two unidentified bases India ?
Qian-5 (A-5) 30
30 aircraft, one regiment
One unidentified base
Tactical weapons (Artillery/rockets/ADMs) 120
Locations unknown at numerous storage sites
Nuclear weapons laboratory
Warhead Assembly and Disassembly few
“Special Parts Institute” near
*Coordinates derived from the National Imagery and Mapping Agency’s (NIMA) database at http://126.96.36.199/gns/html/index.html) - Source: NRDC Worldwide Nuclear Deployments
 Shishir Gupta. China willing to settle boundary issue, boost ties. Hindustan Times, December 9, 2012.
 Prem Shankar Jha. The bull in China’s shop. Tehelka, October 31, 2009.
 Rajat Pandit & Vishwa Mohan, China violated Line of Actual Control 500 times in last two years. Times of India. May 17, 2012. http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-05-17/india/31748482_1_chinese-troops-sq-km-finger-area-pangong-tso
 Agreement On The Maintenance Of Peace Along The Line Of Actual Control In The India-China Border
September 7, 1993. Henry L Stimson Center. http://www.stimson.org/research-pages/agreement-on-the-maintenance-of-peace-along-the-line-of-actual-control-in-the-india-china-border/
 Virender Sahai Verma. Infrastructure in Tibet. Journal of Peace Studies. Vol 18 – Issue 12. January-June 2011. Pp. 88-98
 Benjamin Gilman. Chairman of the House International Relations Committee. Statement released on April 6, 2000 at a Full Committee hearing on "The Status of Negotiations between China and Tibet".
 Ground Forces Organisation. December 13, 2012. http: http://www.sinodefence.com/army/organisation.asp
 Ibid. Ground Forces Organisation.
 Eric S. Margolis. War at the Top of the World. Pp. 212. 2000. Benjamin Gilman. Text: Representative Gilman Says China Uses Tibet to Encircle India. House International Relations Chair April 6 on China/Tibet.
 Vijai K Nair. The Chinese Threat: An Indian Perspective. China Brief is a publication of the Jamestown Foundation.
 Op.Cit. Eric S. Margolis. War at the Top of the World.
 Burmese junta issues a warning to China. Editorial in the Nation. September 4, 2009. http://www.nationmultimedia.com/2009/09/04/opinion/opinion_30111426.php
 Trefor Moss. Bangladesh Eyes China Arms. The Diplomat June 30, 2011. http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2742219/posts
 Op.Cit. Vijai K Nair. The Chinese Threat: An Indian Perspective.
 Jeffrey Hays. China And Pakistan Relations: Cooperation And Nuclear Bombs. Facts & Details, April 2008. Updated 2012. http://factsanddetails.com/index.php?itemid=1002
 Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning. Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_aircraft_carrier_Liaoning
 China lands first jet on aircraft carrier. CNN Wire - November 27, 2012.
 Bernhard Zand. Stronger Chinese Navy Worries Neighbors and US. Spiegel International. September 14,2012. http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/strengthening-of-chinese-navy-sparks-worries-in-region-and-beyond-a-855622.html.
 Annual Report To Congress. Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2012. May 2012. Office of the Secretary of Defense.
 Gregory Kulacki. China's nuclear arsenal: Status and Evolution. Union of Concerned Scientists. http://www.ucsusa.org/assets/documents/nwgs/UCS-Chinese-nuclear-modernization.pdf
 Jeffrey Lewis. China and No First Use. Arms Control Wonk. January 14, 2011. http://lewis.armscontrolwonk.com/archive/3446/china-and-no-first-use-3
 Bill Gertz. The China Threat: How the People’s Republic Targets America. Regnery Publishing, 2002. pp. 233-234. A secret report by the US Air Force’s National Air Intelligence on China’s Medium Range Missile deployments and a report on flight test preparations for a ne DF-31 mobile Intercontinental Ballistic Nissile. NAIC-1030-0988-96, November 1996.
 Pakistan Nuclear Weapons. Global Security Org.
 Pakistan Nuclear Weapons. Nuclear Testing in China’s Western Territory. Xia Mozhu. Exclusive interview with a Chinese military veteran. Epoch Times. March 18, 2012. http://www.theepochtimes.com/n2/china-news/nuclear-testing-in-chinas-western-territory-204617.html
 Damming Tibet's Yarlung Tsangpo-Brahmaputra and other South Asian rivers. May 24, 2010.
 Tibetan Political Review. Damming Tibet to Save China: Hydropower's Coming Golden Decade. Mar 23, 2011.
 Op.Cit. Virender Sahai Verma. Infrastructure in Tibet.
 Gurmeet Kanwal and Monika Chansoria. China preparing Tibet as future war zone. Deccan Herald. http://www.deccanherald.com/content/165996/china-preparing-tibet-future-war.html
 Op.Cit. Virender Sahai Verma. Infrastructure in Tibet.
 Tibet: Environment and Development Issues. Department of Information and International Relations; Central Tibetan Administration; Dharamsala, INDIA. April 26, 2000.
 Hans M Kristensen. Extensive Nuclear Missile Deployment Area Discovered in Central China. FAS Strategic Security Blog, May 15, 2008.
 Op.Cit. Virender Sahai Verma. Infrastructure in Tibet.